Vautier scrambles to P3 in Barber qualifying

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Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie Tristan Vautier’s now gone two-for-two in Firestone Fast Six appearances. His second was done via the more unconventional route.

Vautier emerged disappointed in himself after missing out on the top six by nearly two full tenths of a second.

“Seventh is OK but I feel sorry for my team,” he said. “The car was able to advance and I did a mistake in a place that cost us a lot, and didn’t put the lap together and do the job. I could have just squeezed in there. My fault, I didn’t do the lap when it counted. It’s frustrating to miss the Fast Six for one position.”

Mere minutes later, Vautier turned into a traffic director in the paddock, pushing his team to get back out when informed they’d be promoted into the Fast Six after Takuma Sato’s blocking penalty.

“Right before the Fast Six started, I was looking at it, and I said, ‘Guys, I see my car in the top six, maybe we should bring it back to pit lane,’” said Vautier. “I have to give it to the guys. They brought the car back last minute and got it ready after the Fast Six started. It was a mix of emotions to be disappointed and then all of a sudden know I was in the Fast Six. I had to get back in it.”

In just two laps, Vautier had himself a third-place qualifying effort driving on pure determination and a well set up car.

“Yeah, I just tried to push very hard. My engineer made good changes on the car for the Fast Six and the tires were a bit more used. So it was a lot of fun honestly. It was so cool because the cars have so much grip. You can really push hard and give it all.”

After an exhaust issue sidelined his debut when running in the top five, Vautier seeks his first finish after his second straight excellent qualifying effort.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.